Authorities Detain 80 in International Cyber Crime Operation

Police in 16 countries across the United States, western Europe and in Chile have seized cash, firearms and drugs and arrested 80 people suspected of peddling virus software believed to have infected hundreds of thousands of computers, according to European legal authorities.

Two days of raids targeted creators, users and sellers of the “BlackShades” malware, which the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says has been sold to thousands of users in more than 100 countries, infecting more than 500,000 computers. The software allowed users to control other people’s computers.

The raids involved searches of 359 homes in 16 countries, said Eurojust, the EU’s judicial cooperation agency.

Five defendants charged in the United States include Alex Yucel, who owned and operated the BlackShades organization under the online name “marjinz,” according to court documents unsealed in New York on Monday.

Yucel ran the organization as a business, employing a director of marketing, a website developer, a customer service manager and a team of customer service representatives who answered complaints submitted online, U.S. authorities said.

BlackShades generated more than $350,000 in sales between September 2010 and April 2014, according to the court documents.

In a recent case in the Netherlands, an 18-year-old man was detained for infecting at least 2,000 computers with the malware, using the victim’s web cams to take pictures of women and girls.

A statement said the operation was coordinated by Eurojust and the cyber crime unit of the European police organization, Europol.

In addition to computer hardware, including 1,100 data storage drives, police also seized substantial quantities of cash, illegal firearms and drugs, Eurojust, which is based in The Hague, said.

The malware was sold to thousands of individuals worldwide. The most widely used version was BlackShades RAT, a sophisticated piece of malware that enabled users to take over other people’s computers, Eurojust said.

The FBI’s investigation was aided by one of the co-creators of BlackShades RAT, who agreed to cooperate with authorities after he sold a copy of the malware to an undercover FBI agent.

The investigation has included the seizure of more than 1,900 Internet domain names used to control victims’ computers and a search warrant executed on a BlackShades computer server.

(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam and Joseph Ax in New York.)